Fifteen years after graduating from Lemont High School, Willie Hayes ‘08 has been given an opportunity to lead his alma mater’s football program. At its January 17 meeting, the Lemont High School District 210 Board of Education approved the recommendation to appoint Hayes as the school’s head football coach beginning with the 2023 season. Hayes will succeed Bret Kooi, who is retiring after leading the Lemont football program to an 82-18 record in nine seasons.
Hayes joined Lemont High School’s faculty in 2013, and has been an instructor in both the Physical Education and Special Education departments. He has served as an assistant varsity football coach for 11 seasons (2012-22), which included stints under former coach (and current principal) Eric Michaelsen ‘81 (2012-13) and Kooi (2014-22). During that time, Lemont recorded a composite record of 96-26, won seven South Suburban Conference-Blue Division titles, and made nine IHSA Playoff appearances, which included three quarterfinal finishes, three semifinal finishes, and an IHSA Class 6A State Runner-Up trophy in 2014.
Hayes has spent the last five seasons as the program’s defensive coordinator, and has had a hand in many other facets of the program. He has helped implement an offseason strength and speed program, worked closely with Kooi on tasks ranging from practice schedules to staff development, spearheaded multiple fundraising opportunities, and collaborated with youth football programs.
Hayes was a three-year varsity starter at linebacker from 2005-07 while playing for Michaelsen. Over three seasons, he helped Lemont to a composite 29-8 record and two conference titles (2005 Suburban Prairie Conference-East Division; 2006 SSC Blue). Lemont reached the playoffs each season, culminating with an IHSA Class State Runner-Up finish in 2007.
A three-time all-conference selection, Hayes was the Suburban Prairie-East Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and an all-area pick in 2006 and 2007. He served as team captain as a junior and senior, was tabbed as the team MVP as a senior, and was cited with East Defensive MVP honors at the 2008 Illinois Coaches Association East-West Shrine All-Star Game.
Hayes went on to earn four letters at North Central College from 2008-11 and helped North Central to a composite 41-6 record. He served as a starter at either linebacker or defensive end in each of his final three seasons. The Cardinals won the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) all four seasons and made three NCAA Division III Playoff appearances (2008, 2010, 2011). He was an all-conference performer and team captain as both a junior and senior.
Hayes earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from North Central in 2012, a masters degree in Special Education from Concordia (Ill.) University in 2017, and a masters degree in Educational Leadership & Administration (with a Principal Endorsement) from North Central in 2020.